Rocket Man: John Rozzi

A fourth-generation show designer and the current president of the 116-year-old Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks company, John Rozzi began learning the family trade at age 10. For more than 80 years, Rozzi fireworks have been a mainstay of Cincinnati celebrations, and the Cincinnati Bell/WEBN Labor Day display is the most dynamic of them all.

I was at the first WEBN show in 1977. It was exciting to be associated with a radio station. It made fireworks cool. We’re proud to be a part of the WEBN fireworks. It’s an honor.

Ours was one of the first pyromusicals, which is putting fireworks to music. There was nobody else around here doing it, and we were probably one of the first in the whole United States.

A show has to start out getting the crowd’s attention, and music usually does that, so you need a loud opening. Then during the show, you keep a good pace. Give them a variety of effects and colors to keep their interest up. Then slow it down, nice and delicate.

If I had a favorite aspect, it’d be the noise. The powerful, thundering noise. We make sure there is plenty of noise.

I don’t care what show it is, if you shoot a smiley face off, everyone’s going to go crazy.

People always remember the finale, so it has to be good. If the finale is no good, the show is no good. A good finale has to keep going because it is a running fire. If it stops and fuses out, people wonder what happened. When that happens, you’re just broken.

My best memory has to be when I was a little kid, watching my father shoot fireworks at Coney Island.

Mainly what my father passed on was his work ethic. Fireworks are a very tedious, hands-on, time-consuming type of work. You have to be willing to sit there for hours and hours and dedicate yourself if you’re going to make fireworks. And he could do that. It’s a craft to make fireworks.


Sneak Peak
Rozzi says to expect something “hot and fiery” from this year’s show.
Man Power
Each Labor Day fireworks show requires approximately 100 hours to design, plus another 40 hours to create the sound track. Roughly 30 workers are involved during the Cincinnati Bell/WEBN show.
Best Seat in the House
According to Rozzi, the best place to watch the WEBN fireworks is on the Serpentine Wall or in Newport on the river. “When we’re designing the show, it’s for that area,” he says. “It’s symmetrically based on people looking at it straight on.”
Weather Woes
“In 2003 on the Fourth of July, we were on a barge downtown, and we were just about ready to shoot,” says Rozzi. “Then at 9:30 a big storm came through and just wiped everything out. It ruined everything. You just never know with the weather.”

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